Saving a Southwestern Archive

$8,075 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 72 people in 44 months

The above photographs show the designer and master mind for the Chicago and Saint Louis World's Fair. H. Jay  Smith. The building of Battle Rock Mtn and some of the activities at the fair.
The construction of the Cliff dwellers exhibit at the Saint Louis World's fair has eluded us for a long time but here is one of the few photographs found of that exhibt.

Thank John Richardson for his dexterity in maneuvering through ebay.

John Fremont signature initials from Pipestone National Monument while on the Nicolette Expedtion
Winter on Highway 145 1956 Fred Blackburn on hood

The H. Jay Smith  Exploring Expedition of Battle Rock Mountain in Chicago 1893. Fournier paintings and Wetherill Artifacts. 

Broken Flute Cave Pithouse before excavation. Bernheimer 1930

Fred Blackburn and Vivian Stanley our mentor and host in Northwestern Arizona

Jefferson County Open School Documenting Northeastern Arizona

Ajax slide after hitting the Idarado Mill in Telluride 1958 Walt Honeycutt and Jack Pera in photograph

Jefferson County Open School at Harvard, documenting the Kidder and Guernsey discoveries in Marsh Pass Arizona

San Miguel first settlement at Telluride Winter 1949
1930's Sheep Herder Dendroglyph Stoner Mesa. Fewer and Fewer remain because of climate change. 

Navajo Petroglyph Arizona. 

The view from the Window documenting inscription in site northwestern Arizona
My name is Fred Blackburn.  The past 35 years I have been documenting historic inscriptions [Grafitti] in the southwest, primarily with high school youth from Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood Colorado.

We have been co-permit holders of an archaeological permit to document historic inscriptions and interview elders on the Navajo Reservation.

The purpose of which enables us to follow the routes of early expeditions. Expeditions include first archaeological, Spanish and military expeditions to the southwest.

I have been privileged to have written three books from the information gained from research on these efforts: Cowboys and Cave Dwellers, co-authored with Dr. Ray Williamson, published by the School of American Research in 1997; The Wetherill’s Friends of Mesa Verde, published by the Durango Herald Small Press in 2007, as a gift to the Centennial effort of Mesa Verde and National Park. The same year I completed the text for a coffee table photography book by Klaus Mrocynski entitled “Sacred Places of the Southwest”. I have published numerous monographs and gray papers in addition.

Two portions of the years of research have been funded. The Wetherill/Grand Gulch partially through private donors and a second as part of the Save Americas Treasures Grant at Mesa Verde National Park.

Our method of research is now termed “Reverse Archaeology” defined as: “The linking of items in museums with their original homes” and in conjunction with the National Park Service developing the methodology for the documentation of Historic Inscriptions.

I have not been funded or associated with any university through my entire research career and now find that my aging is limiting how much time I have left to complete the many writing tasks remaining, as well as find and fund the transfer of 1000’s of documents to a proper research facility. Working to provide the bills is now detracting from completing a life-long work to record.

I will require your help in making this happen.

Donors will be kept informed of my progress.  

The following projects are in limbo at the moment. Some writing and research has been completed on all but much editing and input is needed to make them a quality and accurate presentation.

1. Write up [Potential Book or Books] of our work in Prayer Rock. This was an eleven-year project with multiple themes and is the most complex venture to attack. [Portions Publishable especially with Reverse Archaeology] Four preliminary chapters are complete and a book proposal is in process. DRAFT OF BOOK PROPOSAL IN PROGRESS

2. Sniders Well/Yucca House publication is complete to start a second draft of writing. The slide show has provided the basis for the outline. A full report and possible publication is under negotiation with the possible co-authorship of an archaeological treatise by Donna Glowacki.

3. Archive preservation, documentation and digitizing of historic photographs include H.J. Smith exploring expedition, Hayden Survey, History of Ophir and Telluride, World Columbian Exposition at Chicago and Saint Louis. Gifts from work completed with John Richardson of Southern Illinois University. Digitizing and organization of historic photographs stored on computer. PREPERATION AND METHODOLOGY FOR ARCHIVAL QUALITY BEING ESTABLISHED

4. Writing Projects to meet permit requirements from the Navajo Tribe [Some of these projects contain too much sensitive information to publish and will only be presented to the Navajo Historical Cultural Preservation Department as per our permit agreement with Windowrock] Includes: Analyses and research of inscriptions documented at: Long House in Long House Valley, Marsh Pass, Bubbling Springs, Upper Long Canyon, Keet Seel Canyon. Research is completed with an analyses of inscriptions, expeditions and archaeological sites yet to be completed.

5. Completion of the transcriptions of the Kidder and Guernsey Journals [Owe this project to Harvard [14 volumes] [Publishable] Final edits on the last of the volumes remain as needed for completion and sent to Harvard, and usable for final research in Marsh Pass, Long House Valley.  COMPLETED

6. Inscription History of Mancos Canyon and The Ute Mountain Tribal Park. [Early data gathering into a very rough publication that has been utilized in several publications, but a thoroughly edited version never completed.

7. Organization of all archives in preparation for archival storage in as yet an undefined institution[s].

Monument Valley mittens 1955
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Every once in awhile your are reminded why you spend those hours sorting, labeling and documenting these tons of historical documents. You really have to wonder if anyone well every use them or care.

Today I entered the world of Jim Mike, Mike's Boy, Old Mike. He was my first venture into the mysteries of Navajo Mountain and Rainbow Bridge in 1973. A story with telling I hope for all of you.

1973 I entered the world of southeastern, Utah at Natural Bridges National Monument. A career that was short but well lived. I became fascinated with the first care-taker of Natural Bridges, Zeke [Ezekiel Johnson]. Zeke was a care taker of the Natural Bridges during the same era as John Wetherill at Navajo National Monument and Earl Morris at Aztec. Zeke was rumored to have had his own way of interpretation and handling all those folks who visited and wanted to dig up a "mummy" or artifacts. He kept one cave special with a mummy within and would divert those folks to that location so they could have their fun. He would claim it back and rebury it in the process keeping the myth alive! True or not, through the family of Zeke Johnson I was introduced to Jim Mike, a Pahute Man originally from Navajo Mountain, he sort of hung out around Blanding. Zeke Johnson wished to return to his family near Kanab and it was Jim Mike who provided him the short cuts across southeastern, Utah to reach his home as well as teach Zeke the trails and routes in that remote country between the San Juan River and the Colorado River.

Zeke's family, the Lymans, told me that Jim Mike was very much alive and part of the White Mesa Ute Community. They recommended George Hurst as a good man to introduce me to that little known relic of human history. I jumped at the chance. This was 1973,
and I find myself not believing that we actually had a local dialogue with those residents of Blanding who indeed love their local history. A fact not lost on me today as this would likely be impossible at this point in time.

George and I made two trips to visit Jim Mike. I was able to photograph the two men together, both old gentleman of the landscape. Jim Mike was in his home, the door slightly ajar amidst several dogs who were not pleased with our presence.

Jim had his red bandana around his head and his trusty tennis shoes. His eyesight was going and a fly continually harassed his right eye. His presence was awesome and I can feel it today.

Jim asked George who in the heck I was and he indicated a ranger from Natural Bridges who wished to talk to him and he waved with a hand in such a way that he would acommodate the intrusion.

A few months later Zeke Scher, a writer for Empire Magazine, walked into Natural Bridges National Monument. I believe to do a story on the Natural Bridges. In our discussion I told him about Jim Mike and his role in the "Great Race to Rainbow Bridge". I would later learn that Jim had heard the blasting of the Hole in the Rockers in 1879 and went to see what all the noise was about.

The true story may never be told but Nasja Begay and Jim Mike were the guides . Nasja guiding for John Wetherill and Byron Cummings while Jim was the guide for Douglas and there-in lies the battle of which I really do not care.

The Point of all this was that Jim Mike was an original member of that party and was still alive. To honor him seemed only proper.

Zeke took on the challenge and over the next several years I followed the story of Jim Mike. I kept every article I could to tell his story.

Long and short of it is that he created such a stink on why Jim Mike was not recognized that I had to step back as criticism of the National Park Service soon became hot and heavy.

He eventually had his plaque placed alongside that of Nasja Begay and was provided $50 in arrears for his back pay, along with a Pendleton Blanket. He and his son Billy Mike were transported by the NPS as they finally bowed to Public Pressure and recognized that Jim was part of something Special. I include a few photographs to share with you this most unique individual.

Jim would become a celebrity of Blanding for a time. Grand Marshal of the Parade, a point to rally around for his long history in San Juan County.

Jim's age at his death was reported to be 107 years old. In October of 1977.

The sad part of all of this is what we could have learned from this man by an interview with a translator. Most all of what he had seen has been left in the fog of Navajo Mountain.
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The continuing bad, cold, and wet weather, much needed I might add has forced me into making excellent headway on the archive documentation and preservation. Thanks to the recent donations I was able to purchase a few more of the archival slide holders. My focus now is on going through the hundreds of research documents, some of which I know are duplicates, and create a database inventory of what is to be found. In that process have found many missing items for the projects on the deck at the moment.

Strawman Panel drawings were completed last week and we are ready for a final field check.

The detailed history of Snyder's Well and Yucca House is now back together and ready for sorting.

We, as a group, were able to provide edits for Dowizhibeto Canyon Report currently being written by the students at Jefferson County Open School.

No news yet on the Prayer Rock Chapter of "Conversation with Manual". The book that is closest to my heart.

I also want to make you aware that I will have a detailed inventory of my loose paper records from 1973 forward through the 1990's including information on the first federal raids in Blanding in the early 80,s. I will post only the topics I have inventoried. I believe they may be of assistance to the Bears Ears Effort. For me, reading through these, it is like listening to a broken record.

If you are individually interested in review of detailed inventories of these topics contact me by email or request through facebook and I will be happy to share as the museum archive route is stalled at the moment and I would rather focus on the organization than fight that one through.

Thanks again on all your support. It helps more than you know.
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The last few months have been very hectic and productive due to the snow, rains, cold, and warm fire that have kept me indoors straightening out the records roughly organized by the Jefferson County Open School. The Four Students created enough preliminary organization to keep me busy for months. They have, however, show the funding need for more archival boxes, and sleeves if any of you feel like you have enough shekels to help!

I wish to keep you all informed with progress as the prior donation covered the initial stabilizing of materials until I could see where actual needs were for more help.

I am also ready for more hands on help in creating informational data bases on photographs, cd's, library and files if anyone has any extra time.

Strawman Panel is proving quite a wonderful challenge. I am working with the BLM and the Jagiellonian University on completing this task. Also helping prepare a research design for Aztec National Monument. Any movement forward for either project financially is in dead black water but I continue to work on biographies and accuracy of recording.

Two chapters on our experiences in Prayer Rock are at the editor's red pen as we speek.

I am very pleased with the current status of the project. I am hoping I will complete the majority of it before leaving the planet. Some days I am not sure but it will be a way to get even with my children.

Please stay in touch as needed.

Thank you all for how much you done by encouragement, interest and donation to date.

I am preparing another group of photographs from World War II press corp photographs and further slides regarding my fathers work at Purgatory and for Telluride Iron Works to present to the Center for Southwest Studies.

The Strawman Inscription/ Rock Art panel is taking up a lot of time as I continue to research out the individuals and doc
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The summer has been with fire, heat, smoke and a kitchen remodel. The work on archives ground to a halt with a major renovation much needed.

We have, however, began the scanning process of slides and turned over the first batch of sides to the Center for Southwest Studies. So a few boxes have left the building at last. Primarily Purgatory and Durango events .

We will continue this winter when all of the dust covers can be removed and once again resort the items, follow up with three museums on what they wish to archives.

Thanks to your generous help and support we have adequate acid free containers to nearly complete what we have currently.

Will present all of you with a more detailed report in December. Let us all hope for snow.

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Read a Previous Update
Bill Harris
44 months ago

I have known Fred since 1984, and have shared many unique experiences with him, and his band of citizen researchers. His work is a critical link to our past, and what we love about the Southwest. As a side note to highlight the my high regard for Fred's work, my Facebook profile photo was taken in 1989 near Redman Cave in Grand Gulch on one of our inscription recording expeditions.

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$8,075 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 72 people in 44 months
Created June 11, 2015
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Paul Cleary
13 days ago

I respect Fred's work and realize how important this work is.

Mike Garcia
23 days ago

A very wothwhile project. Been hearing good things about Fred for years.

John & Susie Mansfield
25 days ago

...just trying to keep Fred safe is his cozy home.

12 months ago
Bill Harris
44 months ago

I have known Fred since 1984, and have shared many unique experiences with him, and his band of citizen researchers. His work is a critical link to our past, and what we love about the Southwest. As a side note to highlight the my high regard for Fred's work, my Facebook profile photo was taken in 1989 near Redman Cave in Grand Gulch on one of our inscription recording expeditions.

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